Noteworthy paperbacks

May 3, 2014 

Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center, by Ray Monk. (Anchor) Monk emphasizes Oppenheimer’s psychological complexity and his contributions to physics as he brings the “father of the atomic bomb” vividly to life – from his tenure as the director of the Los Alamos laboratory to his exile under McCarthyite anti-Communism.

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, by Denise Kiernan. (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster) In 1945, the town of Oak Ridge, Tenn., had 75,000 residents and used more electricity than New York City. As Kiernan explains in this engaging history, Oak Ridge was home to the Manhattan Project’s top-secret uranium enrichment facilities, staffed by young women who learned the true nature of their work only after the first bomb fell on Hiroshima.

The Retrospective, by A.B. Yehoshua. Translated by Stuart Schoffman. (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Yair Moses, an aging Israeli film director and the protagonist of Yehoshua’s searching novel of art and ethics, has been invited to the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela for a retrospective of his work. There he encounters a painting that overshadows the celebration and spurs him to salvage his relationship with a brilliant but difficult screenwriter.

Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America, by Jeff Chu. (Harper Perennial) Troubled that so many churches deny gay, often conflicted believers the solace of a place to worship, Chu roamed the country for a year, visiting religious leaders who are all over the map on homosexuality, and gay people struggling to reconcile their faith.

Red Doc, by Anne Carson. (Vintage Contemporaries) Over a career spanning some 30 years and books of poetry, prose, drama and translation, Carson has found new ways to reinvent classical myths. An impulse to mischief is behind the bizarreness of “Red Doc,” a verse-novel sequel to “Autobiography of Red” that reunites Herakles and the winged monster Geryon, sending them on a phantasmagoric road trip.

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco. (Nation) This timely and disquieting polemic – a combination of literary journalism (Hedges) and graphic art (Sacco) – reports on daily life in four corners of 21st-century American poverty: Pine Ridge, S.D.; Camden, N.J.; Welch, W.Va.; and Immokalee, Fla. The final chapter takes place in New York City, at the center of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. (Broadway) A couple’s marriage goes terribly wrong in Flynn’s novel of psychological suspense. On the morning of her fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne vanishes from her Missouri home, and her husband, Nick, a magazine writer with the looks of a “rich-boy villain in an ’80s teen movie,” suffers the painful transformation from distressed spouse to suspected murderer.

New York Times

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